living well

5 Key Habits for Living Well

I want to be early-morning-workout-guy. I’ve tried to do this multiple times, and it generally begins well. I’m excited, I feel like I’m living well, I’ve found an interesting podcast to listen to, I’m ready to go. And then, a week later (or a month, or even a couple of months, depending on my stamina), I stay up a little later than I should. The alarm sounds in the morning and I think, “Meh, maybe I’ll just skip today.” R.I.P., early-morning-workout-guy.

Our habits make us, for better or for worse.Of course, I always have excuses. I have to stay up late to get work done, or send one last email, or watch the playoffs. And while these excuses may be legitimate, as long as I regularly choose late nights as the time for doing these things, it doesn’t matter how badly I want to be early-morning-work-out-guy. I can’t do it (Confession: I’m writing this blog after 11 p.m., so…). Our habits make us, for better or for worse. So here are 5 key habits for living well that I’d encourage you to put into practice.

1. Make room for silence.

We live in a world full of noise and constant noise generates stress in our bodies. Noise makes it difficult to be self-reflective. Silence, on the other hand, releases tension and enables us to reflect deeply on ourselves and our surroundings.

Try turning off your radio for 10 to 15 minutes during your morning commute. Shower without music. Set aside a few minutes just before bed to sit quietly. Silence, indeed, is golden.

2. Learn something new.

Learn something new each week. Google a holiday you’ve always wondered about (what’s up with Presidents’ Day?) or pick a non-fiction book off of the New York Times Bestseller List or watch a documentary on Netflix. Set aside 30 to 60 minutes Sunday nights to challenge yourself to learn one new thing about the world (bonus points if you include your kids).

3. Do something each day that brings you joy.

Joy often can seem like the stuff of children. Adults don’t have time for joy. When we do experience it, it is almost by accident. But what if joy isn’t something we stumble upon, but something we choose?

Take time each morning to identify one thing you can do during your day that will bring you joy. Maybe that’s allowing yourself to belt out a song in the shower or to listen to your favorite comedian. Perhaps it’s taking a moment to wrestle with your child or taking a brief walk in nature. Joy is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Choose joy daily.

4. Bless one person each day.

The word ‘bless’ may seem a bit sentimental or vaguely religious (or oddly associated with sneezing), but really it’s the idea of living well by helping someone else live well.

Blessing people could be as simple as speaking a word of encouragement to them (this is great for our kids). It could mean doing something kind like buying a cup of coffee for a friend or returning someone’s grocery cart. Simple acts of blessing add up and they can have a profound impact on others—and on you.

5. Give generously.

If you’re like me, you regularly find yourself thinking things like, “When we make more money, we’ll be generous.” But that never happens. Because you almost never think you have enough money. However, if you can make giving a habit, you will become generous, even if you don’t feel rich.

What if you set aside a certain percentage of your income to give to an organization you care about? In some religious traditions, it’s 10 percent. But start with what is doable, even if it’s just 1 percent. Every time you get a paycheck, practice setting aside that money so you can give it to someone or something you care about.

Sound off: What other habits help you live well?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Which of these 5 habits could we begin practicing together?”